They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway.
They say there’s always magic in the air…
I guess if I don’t sing more than eight bars of On Broadway by the Drifters, I don’t owe the songwriter any royalties. That’s good, because the minuscule money generated by this blog’s advertisements wouldn’t pay a single performance fee, although I clearly save a lot of money by not following my own betting advice on the Nittany Lions. But I digress.
The Nittany Lions (6-3, 3-2 Big Ten) travel to the big, noisy Horseshoe, sometimes known as Ohio Stadium, to clash with the #9 Ohio State Buckeyes (8-1, 4-1 Big Ten), whose only loss was a surprising 31-18 drubbing by the Badgers of Wisconsin. (The Lions don’t play Wisconsin this year, so I sneakily inserted a link to your favorite badger animation.) After that, the Bucks royally kicked the sorry asses of Purdue and Minnesota, both in “transition years” (meaning that for one reason or another, they suck), and then took a week off before tackling the mighty Nittany Lions of Penn State.
“It’s kind of insulting. I think we’ve proven we can put points on the board, that we can win games. I think a lot of people take offense to it and it will just make our team work harder.” —Evan Royster, about the gambling line for this game
Obviously, these two teams don’t like each other, which has led to some great games. The all-time series stands at 13-12 in favor of OSU, but the visiting team has won the past three instances of this game. That should give us some hope if it’s truly a jinx and not a coincidence. Aw, let’s face it: the Lions have a major uphill fight ahead of them just to stay in this one. Penn State has won only once in Columbus since joining the Big Ten and has not scored more than one touchdown per game during that period. This year’s edition of the Nittany Lions is arguably the least talented since the dreaded “Dark Years”, and injuries have conspired with inexperience to produce mediocre results.
Redshirt sophomore Matt McGloin is the center of attention for several reasons. He seems to have been handling his newfound celebrity quite well up to now. However, this is his first step up into the big leagues, the center court, the corner office, the big stage on Broadway. First, ESPN College Gameday’s Kirk Herbstreit, a former Buckeye quarterback publicly criticized McGloin, which got him fired up. That he was not quivering in his boots when Herbstreit flew in to PSU this week to interview him is a good sign. To increase the pressure on McGloin, Gameday will originate from Columbus this week and the Herbstreit-McGloin interview will air during the show. Additional pressure not heretofore experienced by McGloin will be the 105,000+ bloodthirsty fans in one of the noisiest stadiums in the Big Ten cheering each sack, incompletion, and interception. Behind an inexperienced and often yielding offensive line, McGloin is bound to feel some heat. Finally, during the week’s build-up to the game, Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor stated that he had never heard of McGloin. We’ll soon see whether that casual statement serves to pump up the Penn Stater. One way or another, all this unexpected notoriety has been pretty tiring for McGloin, who just wants to play some football.
Our coaches have chosen the right guy, whom I call The Answer, to lead the Nittany Lions into this game. His past performance suggests that he will be much more unflappable than prior starter Rob Bolden, and won’t try to force things when the situation doesn’t call for it. Furthermore, his energy and enthusiasm rubs off on the rest of the team, including the defense. This Turkey thinks McGloin is a leader on the field and off. On Saturday, he’ll be put to the test against his counterpart, Terrelle Pryor, who craves publicity and happily sucks up rays from the spotlight.
The Buckeyes’ rushing offense ranks 19th nationally. Dan Herron carries most of the load on the ground game, with significant help from Pryor, whose long legs make him appear to be loping while he is outrunning the defense. Senior Brandon Saine is another running back who also has good hands. Talented senior Dane Sanzenbacher and junior DeVier Posey handle most of the receiving duties, and have eaten up zone defenses like Penn State’s. Pryor ranks second to only Ricky Stanzi of Iowa in the Big Ten for pass efficiency. Ohio State’s stout offensive line excels at both run support and pass protection.
But it is defense that will put the clamps on Penn State. The Bucks rank third nationally in overall defense, and first nationally in turnover margin. The Nittany Lions’ running game, which has shown a brief resurgence of late, will not be able to move the ball on the ground against the Buckeyes. The only hope is that McGloin will be able to pass often and deep at times. (Whether that can happen is a coaching prerogative.) Senior all-everything defensive end Cameron Heyward will put significant pressure on McGloin, putting him to another hefty pressure test.
If the Buckeyes are vulnerable anywhere it is in their special teams, particularly on punt and kickoff coverage. They’ve had two run back for six this year. Are you listening, Chaz?
The keys to the game? Forget it. Send your keys to Jenn Sterger and have a party in your room instead.
The coaching duel is tilted toward Columbus, because PSU has a habit of tightening up the cheeks when in big road games. Playing “not to lose” is not going to win this game for Penn State, which has nothing to lose. (They’re bowl eligible, they can’t win the Big Ten with three losses, and they won’t finish the season ranked any higher than the bottom of the top 25. So, theoretically, they should just turn the offense loose and take some gambles on defense. That’s what they should do. What they will do is going to be interesting.) Can they play a road game without invoking sphincter mode?
The weather won’t be a factor. It is forecast to be mostly sunny with a high of 65 in Columbus. Great fall football weather. Indian summer.
As for those of you who must watch on TV, which is most of us, we get the “A” Team from ESPN/ABC, which is (for what it’s worth) Brent Musberger, Kirk Herbstreit, and Erin Andrews in the familiar role of Sideline Blonde.
Let’s make a prediction. Yes, this is the feature you’ve all been waiting for, the Official Turkey Poop Prediction, which is typically worth turkey poop but I’ll give it to you anyway. The gamblers have been dissing Penn State all week by widening the gap, which opened at OSU favored by 16 points and is now 18. This is the biggest spread I’ve ever seen favoring a Penn State opponent. I’d love to see a lot of bettors lose their money on this game. The over/under is 49. This suggests a massacre with the Buckeyes winning by the approximate score of 32-15. I think that State is going to have a difficult time moving the ball, but I think that Tressel will show respect for Joe Paterno, who won’t be winning his 401th here. I’m going with OSU 34, PSU 13 and I’m taking the under.